Bucs WR Mike Evans - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
If Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans retired today, he would have had a very nice career. A just 24 years old, four years into his professional career, Evans has already amassed 4,579 receiving yards, 309 catches with 32 touchdowns.
If Evans retired today, he would also be one of the best Buccaneers receivers in franchise history. He is currently third all-time in the team’s record books for receiving yards, trailing only Mark Carrier and Kevin House – names he will pass this year with one more healthy season at his career’s pace. And when it comes to receiving touchdowns, Evans trails only Bucs Ring of Honor tight end Jimmie Giles by two scores when it comes to the No. 1 spot in Tampa Bay history. If everything just goes according to his career average, Evans will own every Buccaneers’ major receiving record in franchise history all by the age of 25.
Since coming into the league in 2014, Evans has been a name to covet in the passing game around the NFL. But around all the accolades and the well-deserved praise, there is an area of his game that has, to this point, constantly alluded Evans in terms of his production on the field and that is the statistic of yards after the catch [YAC].
“I think  was my worst year in YAC,” Evans said after the team’s first OTA practice of 2018. “I’ve got another hurdle to jump over and I think I’ll be much better this year. I’ve got to do better in that category, and I think if I do, I’ll be the most complete receiver.”
The problem is, Evans saying that 2017 was his worst YAC year isn’t like him saying he was good at it before and last year he just wasn’t. He’s actually struggled at YAC for a while. In 2016, Evans had 1,321 receiving yards but only recorded 169 of those yards after the catch. That average of 1.8 yards after catch was second worst among qualifying NFL players (more than 25 catches).
In 2017, it was even worse.
The list above shows the Top 25 yards after catch players in the NFL. You won’t find Evans’ name on that list. But, that’s okay, right? I mean, a lot of those players are running backs and where they catch the ball on the field, by nature, allows them to get more yards after the catch anyway. So, Evans not being in the Top 25 is fine – even though players like Antonio Brown, Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones and Michael Thomas are all there.
Maybe Evans is just outside that list.
With just 132 yards after catch on 71 catches in 2017, Evans was ranked 154th among all NFL players in that category.
Listed above are the 15 receivers who topped 1,000 yards in 2017. Evans barely cleared that mark, so his numbers should be relatively lower, if you’re taking consistency into account. But, if you’ll notice, no other wide receiver is even close to Evans’ low yards after catch total. After Evans, the next closest wide receiver who hit 1,000 yards was Marvin Jones Jr., who ranked 98th in yards after the catch, and then Brandin Cooks, who ranked 72nd. After that, the rest of those players were in the Top 30 in terms of all NFL players gaining yards after the catch.
This shouldn’t be, right? Bucs offensive Todd Monken agrees.
“The next step for Mike Evans is getting those yards after the catch,” Monken said. “Evans is just too talented to just catch and fall.”
I don’t think anyone would disagree with him there. Evans truly is one of the best receivers in the NFL, and has only gotten better as his years have gone on. Though the stats have been up and down for a variety of reasons, he is a constant talent in Tampa and in the NFL. But, when someone asks you the question “Who are your Top 5 receivers in the NFL?” how many have Evans in their answer? Probably not as many as they should.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Getty Images
Perhaps a reason for that is that alluring yards after catch statistic. But, four years in and only one season under his belt where he’s topped 200 yards after catch, is that really something Evans is going to improve on, or is it not in the cards for him? Better yet, does it need to be?
Does Evans truly need those yards after catch to be a constant name in the Top 5 at his position, and is that really a part of his game that could grow or is it just a nice quote to hear during the offseason – is Evans just who he is without the YAC, like Keyshawn Johnson was during his career in Tampa Bay and elsewhere?
We answer that question in depth by looking at Evans’ film on the next page.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
I love Odell, but I don’t think I can put him over Julio. Both are so damn good, though.
I think DHop is criminally underestimated/undervalued. He is so polished and just incredible in every facet of being a WR. The guy is the only WR that I have not seen be effectively shut out by a coaches’ game plan. I imagine if you polled DCs & DB coaches through the NFL you would get a top two of AB and DHop in alternating orders of 1 and 2. After that, I agree that Julio, Odell, Green and Evans are the next 4 in discussion.
Why is the guy from Wu-Tang Clan #2 on your list?
Don’t sleep on Ol’ Dirty Bastard
LMAO! Sorry y’all, that should have been OBJ
I think Evans was trying to save his body for his second contract, and I don’t blame him. Had he blown out his knee trying to get extra yardage last year he may not have gotten his big deal. Now that his contract is taken care of, I hope to see a more determined runner after the catch.
Maybe. But Mike’s competitive as hell. I have a hard time imagining he was giving less effort consciously.
I’m just not sure it’s in his nature to always be a YAC guy. Not saying he can’t or won’t break a few off each year, but I also wouldn’t bet on him getting more than 350 YAC max. Just not who he is — which is totally fine.
Trevor, surprising Cover 3! I found it to be very creative and extremely accurate.
I think there is another aspect of this that actually puts Evans closer to that top 5 or even top 3 position. Evans has grown as a Man and his maturity level is head and shoulders ahead of Beckham Jr and Brown (arguably the top 2). Evans is a competitor and a great Teammate. This makes his value, IMO, much higher.
I would love to see his YAC increase as I do believe he has not really tried to extend plays as often as he could. He also has not fumbled as much as some of the “9” you have named. I think he is aware of his weaknesses and that is half the battle. I am happy Evans is on our Team for all of his performances but also because of the lack of drama that he is part of.
Surprised that it was good or that it came out on a Tuesday? Haha.
I agree with you wholeheartedly that Evans has matured. Not that I even thought he was immature before, but he has grown up so much as a teammate, husband and father. You can see it in him. He has been a worth-while investment in every way.
More surprising that you had the perspective to see this AND cover it. I am happy that you wrote the article with out the fear of reprisal from Mike Evans and the Bucs. It was written with respect and accuracy..
I think it’s
I am really glad you wrote this article because many times I’ve watched in frustration as ME goes down so easily. I sometimes wondered if the fear of a turnover was looming larger in his mind than the desire to try and “win” on any given play. I agree fully that it isn’t so black and white and each play is circumstantial, however I would like to see ME find a way to get more YAC as we can be downright putrid on 3rd and short. Good article Trevor!
There is a balance to playing it safe versus going for the extra yards. And it’s not like one is at all times better than the other. It’s situational. Evans never fumbles because of his style, and you like that. You don’t want that to change. Can’t just ask for one thing without seeing what it affects.
You’re number #5? That’s some confidence my man!
Trevor, It really doesn’t matter. Since this is a team game, we take what we can get . Just my opinion.
I remember Mike Williams after his rookie year say something like I want to do more after the catch.
Well he for some reason could not catch the ball much after that.
I agree with Suferdude 100%! I watched Evans play the 1st 8 or 9 games and then the last half. He’s a smart guy and knows that 2nd contract was bigtime payday. I look to see him stretch out a little more this season. He’s one of the ones who actually worked hard on his deficiencies this off season.
Ugh I hate to say this cause Mike is an amazing part of our team…but he’s 6th for me out of those names…
And it is the YAC that makes that list for me…
I think that might be my six as well for the same reasons.
Sixth on that list is a great place to be. Remember, he has “fixed” his problem with dropped passes. Also, remember that Winston was throwing the ball with an injured shoulder for much of last year. If he has to slow down or stop to catch and secure a pass, so be it. If he was running a lot of WR screens or short routes and not picking up first downs, then YAC would really be a great concern. But, he often catches the ball beyond the line of gain. So, securing the ball to gain four more downs comes way ahead of YAC.
Evan’s biggest problem in this regard is not him it’s Winston. That’s why we couldn’t get the expected explosiveness from Jackson. It’s extremely rare for Winston to hit them in stride with good ball placement. Plus he still telegraphs with his eye too much and has slow release in both aspects, getting the ball out and throwing motion.
Winston’s placement needs to be better, no question. He’s fine right now, but if and this offense wants to take the next step, that’s the biggest x-factor.
Just a few comments, and I sure don’t pretend to be an expert, but the first objective should be to catch the ball. The second should be to run the rout deep enough to achieve the objective of the play. The third which is probably the highest priority is not to fumble after the catch. What appears to be three huge other factors is The QB throwing the ball into traffic, throwing the ball in a place where the receiver can catch it in stride, and the ability for the receiver to play defense if he can’t make the catch but the defender can. Finally when you can catch a pass falling out of bounds with a defender trying to separate your head from your body, that’s pretty gutsy if you ask me. I think Mike has mastered his position and YAC doesn’t concern me in the least.
I agree with you on the priorities!
Hey Trevor love reading your articles. Always so well written and so in depth.. Thanks for a good read everytime.. This is coming from a Die Hard Bucs fan in Philadelphia..
Thanks, Justin! Glad you enjoy the work. I’ll keep writing if you keep reading.
Lets leave big Mike alone and be thankful for what is. How many games has he missed in his time here? I think him being able to play on Sun. is more important than an extra 200-300 yds. a year. On 3rd down long as he makes the first is great. Play another day. Win!!
Go Bucs !!!
This is true!
hey Trevor not a big fan of all the BIG charts. I am a fan of yours.
Go Bucs !!!
Lol. Thanks. Maybe I’ll cool it down on the charts.
Its mostly the product of Dirks offense. Both outside receivers are low on the yac. They seem to run the same routes (distance) the majority of the games too. Defenses are sitting on them. Therefore it has gotten in Evans head imo. He used to try for yac and took some heavy shots. Last season he caught it and went down. He wasnt the only receiver to do that. More slants, crossing routes, even draw plays and that should open up the farther routes for yac. Lets face it Dirk was fixated on the big play last year. More 3 step drops equals less Evans CatchnDrop. As far as the top WRs it all depends on the offense theyre in. Put Evans in LA with McVay and he’d be top 3. Here I’d say around 10
Sure. I mean, you can tell he’s taken some big licks before on those posts and slant routes, so I don’t blame him at all. That’s why I’m not really critical of the lack of YAC.
It’s a combo of Dirk’s offense and Winston’s ball placement. Dirk’s offense runs a good amount of vertical concepts as well as routes where you turn your back to the end zone, so unless you’re hitting broken coverage you’re not going to get much out of those by nature.
Yet another good Cover 3. Thanks.
Mike needn’t be the best in the NFL or even top 5, but he’s damn good and we’re fortunate to have him as the best WR in franchise history. 25 in August with a long term contract. Wow.
I’m more concerned about Evans immaturity. Than YAC. Kneeling during anthem for military appreciation day? WTF? Too many penalties and he can’t control his emotions as evidenced in the first Saints game last year with Lattimore. That was ridiculous by him and Winston they both need to freaking grow up. I’m starting to wonder if Winston will ever be an elite QB. I have supported him from draft day and really not said much critical but he really needs to learn to control his emotions. Especially early on in games. His deep ball and int. Better improve year 4 too. Not saying he Sucks or Bucs should move on or anything crazy but this year I want to see a lot more before he gets a huge contract.
I have seen too many cases as Trevor have outlined where Evans catches the ball and immediately look for the ground when there is nobody around, especially on slants. I have seen too many highlights of Jerry Rice and others take a slant all the way to the house.
That’s why guys like Odell and Julio and Antonio Brown have that “wow” factor. They take any open space and accelerate. Evans doesn’t always do that. Which, again, isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. It’s just styles. Those guys also fumble more than Evans does, so.
Those 3 aren’t as big as MIke though. That’s why they can accelerate more.
AB – 5’10” 190
Julio – 6’3″ 218
OBJ – 5’11” 200
Mike – 6’5″ 230
Their body frames are lighter than his
This was my thought as well. He’s basically Cam Chancellor with a ball in his hands. No DB wants anything to do with that. I really don’t have a problem with Evans style. I appreciate the man but if he made the choice to be a nightmare physically after the catch as much as he is before it, he’ll get more space and jaw dropping results imo. Great work again TS. You’re the modern day Karl Malone. I’ll call you the UPS man, cause you deliver!!
I’d like Evans to get more YAC as well, but his claim to fame in this league (in my mind, at least) is the huge leaping grabs above the defender. Jameis like to put the ball where nobody but Evans is going to get it, especially on routes run by the sidelines. I think part of the key to Evans getting better on on YAC is establishing a consistent deep ball threat with DJ and Godwin (taking that safety with them), and that’s going to be something out of Evan’s control.
Evans is a top 5 receiver and would be my #1 if it wasn’t for those pesky drops that really shouldn’t be drops. I still don’t understand how he drops all the easy ones.
I prefer he goes down and not gets blown up over the middle. Hes my favorite type of receiver and we have other people that can get the YAC.
Mike keeps the chains moving. And I feel that he would have a high chance of fumbles if he tried to extend every play.
If he gives me 5 10 yard catches or 1 5 yard catch with 45 YAC I don’t care. #JustGottaGet6!
Mike had a lot of drops in 2015, and something like 5 of his 11 that year them came in one really rough game (in the rain against the Giants). Last season, he dropped just two passes all year. So I’m not sure I agree that it’s a major issue for him.
YAC isn’t Evans’ strength, but his strengths have resulted in very good production over the past 4 years. He was never and probably will never be a big YAC guy regardless, but I do think in 2017 he was worried more about drops which led to him going to the ground easily. He obviously doesn’t have a problem with contact evidenced by his sideline catch against Atlanta where he got absolutely leveled. How many other guys would have held onto that with one hand? not many. As stated by others, a lot of his lack of YAC also results from the routes he’s being asked to run, ball placement, etc.
As far as top receivers go, going by your list there are only 2 I’d take over Evans and that would be AB and Julio. Numbers aside, I trust him more than any of the other WRs on that list.
Yeah, I don’t think he’s afraid of contact, but that’s probably a good point about limiting the drops. But, like I said in the article. You can’t have it all. You have to give up safe if you want to take risks to get YAC. Maybe it’s not worth it for Evans — which is fine.
in 2016 the big knock on Mike was drops and he addressed that in 2017. Now it’s YAC, so I believe he will improve that in 2018. He is “that guy” that will take his weakness and work on it, so I expect to see improvement every year.
Winston is our risk taker, we can’t have Evans risking turnovers trying too hard for YAC as well. Again, there are very few guys I’d take over Mike with or without YAC.
My top WRs in the game right now, with tiers.
(7) Michael Thomas
(8) Keenan Allen
That said, I’m only going off talent here. If I was ranking based on desirability to teams, Mike would pull ahead of Green due to being right next to him but 5 years younger, and ahead of Odell based on team mentality/attitude. Mike’s lack of natural YAC ability does hurt him some, no doubt. Everything in this C3 is stuff I and some other have been saying for a long time – that (1) the way we use Evans limits his YAC potential and that; (2) he isn’t physically built to be an elite YAC producer; and (3) he sometimes intentionally looks to go to the ground or step out of bounds rather than fight for extra yardage.
Only one of those has any remote likelihood of changing. Mike isn’t going to get a ton quicker or shiftier, and we aren’t going to start using him extensively on drag routes and the like. He can make a conscious effort to seek out more yardage, and I’d really like him to do that. It IS a weakness of his. But even if he focuses on that, he isn’t suddenly going to become a YAC machine. He can get better than awful at it, but he’s always going to be limited relative to quicker guys like Beckham and Golden Tate.
Very much agree with this comment all around
In my opinion it’s not the play call and it’s not Jameis, Fitz or even Mike Glennon. Mike has simply gotten into the habit of catching the ball and immediately going down. It’s as if his mindset is that once he has secured the ball, the mission is accomplished and the play is over. It’s not fear, as he is obviously fearless, it’s just a subconscious reaction. Perhaps this training camp he can work on purging his brain to focus on staying upright. Hmmmmm, is there a pill for that?
It’s too bad some of our youthful Bucs fans never got a chance to see Kevin House’s grace or Mark Carrier’s grit. Both were a joy to watch, but Mike Evans is the best we’ve ever had and I’d take him over draft-mate ODB and his antics.
It’s definitely a mentality thing, but the offensive design and Winston’s accuracy do play their part in all this.
Last year was a disappointing year for the offense all around. Most of the problems stem from the lack of a running game and the lack of pass protection. Defenses knew who was getting the ball and it was Evans. So of course he was double teamed.
I would put Evans in my top 5, but he has to get better at the YAC. He is huge right? So if he stops going to the ground all the time eventually he is going to break a tackle or a defender is going to miss a tackle. He uses his size to his advantage to jump over a defender to make the catch, but i wish he would also use it to his advantage to run through a defender. It would possiby turn a 10 yard gain into a 40 yard gain.
Definitely feel he has the mentality of secure the ball and get down rather than “How can I take this in for 6?” . He’s a big strong guy as he noted and while he’ll never be a huge yac guy he is leaving a lot of yards on the field. He seems good about securing it against fumbles and while that’s a risk I think he can handle it. The guy was pretty spectacular after the catch at A&M if I remember right. Well, more catching long ass passes in general than yac but he wasn’t bad at all. I think he just got lit up and decided discretion is the better part of valor early on in the NFL. I’ll take it! He is great.
The question as I read it was “Are Yards After Catch Mandatory For WR Evans In Bucs Offense”? The key word is mandatory and the simple answer is No! Would it be nice if Mike got more YAC? The simple answer is Yes! My good friend Forrest Gump reminds us that “Mike is as Mike does – and that’s good enough for me.
In my opinion, Mike is the best possession WR in the NFL. I would rather see Mike get that first down than have him try to turn upfield with his lumbering speed and have some SS take his legs and have him miss a game or two or worst case do a stretch on IR.
We should be thankful we have Mike and hope he is utilized more efficiently. How about spreading the ball around more to take some coverage away from Mike. He’s always the 3rd down “go to” guy and DCs know it. The red zone is an area where a lot more is to be had from Mike if the play calling is improved. He is never going to wow us with his breakaway speed (Mike did run a 4.53/40 in the combine, second run unofficial 4.47) or his open field elusiveness. Mike is 6-5, he needs time to reach warp speed – which he is not going to get in tight coverage.
I’m not greedy. I like Mike just the way he is. Because he’s great at what he does. There are a ton more ways this team could score points than to increase Mike’s YAC. Evans joins Randy Moss and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green as the only receivers in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards in each of their first four seasons. The damn yards are coming from somewhere. Lol. Maybe if we get the deep ball working and take some coverage away from the middle of the field, we’ll see a different Mike. Until then don’t fix anything that ain’t broke! Go Bucs!
He’s trying not to get injured and that’s fine with me, but if you put his college tape he does a lot better after the catch where safeties aren’t as scary.
He’s just outside the top 5 for me
I like Evans game mostly as it is. He is really good at what he does. I would rather err on the side of caution and keep him healthy.
Be careful what you wish for, I dont want Mike Evans sacrificing his body and health for a few extra yards. As Trevor mentioned, he is not that type of receiver who is going to take slants to the house and be great after the catch. Mike Evans is an All-pro player just the way he is. Bucs fans will find something to complain about for every player we have, even our stars. If he is going over the middle and chooses to catch the ball going to the ground because he sees the safety coming down hill, then thats whats called a good business decision. You want him to be like Gronk? Running over the middle every play and as a result being injured more than he is healthy. I would rather have a healthy Mike Evans for 16 games then a few more YAC in one game then a lingering injury.
I’m surprised Doug Baldwin wasn’t on the list. Super under appreciated. He’s a YAC machine and never drops the ball. Competition percentage in his direction is off the charts.
6. AJ Green
That’s my top 5 Diggs and Baldwin are highly under rated IMO
And I’m not worried about Evans YAC, he’s great at other things. Not everyone is Megatron and has every part of their game mastered by 25. I mean noone was worried about Peyton mannings rushing yards just because their were top quarterbacks in the league who could scramble? Maybe that’s a bad point but that’s my opinion
First time comment! I am a Tampa Native but current New Hampshire resident. I am, of course a HUGE Bucs and Lightning fan.
Regarding Mike Evan’s lack of YAC (hehe rhymes), Trevor, how much do you think muscle memory has do do with his mentality? Granted, Winston is not the most accurate placement to give the receivers the best opportunity. As someone who relies on extreme accuracy of training not to develop bad habits in performance, I wonder if Evan’s is just so used to doing acrobats in order to catch the ball that he just defaults to covering up to protect himself? I would be curious to find out if Evans was any different when Fitz was throwing to him. Maybe as Winston gets more accurate, Evan’s tendencies will change.
yac is important, he is to big not to be more aggressive after the catch. The goal is to try to score on every play. Football is very violent & dangerous. you are more likely to get hurt if dont play at 100 mph. He could be much more violent as a ball carrier make them think twice about tackling him. The mentality of take what you can get is weak. The goal is to step on the enemies neck & never take your foot off. Hey Mike stop half stepping, no such thing as halfway crooks. You could be the most violent receiver to ever play the game. Punish the opponent like sweetness, like your body slam blocks of db’s. Does catching the ball make your heart instantly start pumping kool aid? The eye in the sky don’t lie. What would have rice done with your size? You must not want to be the goat.
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